Tag Archives: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Immortal Irishman – The Irish Revolutionary Who Became An American Hero – by Timothy Egan – A Book Review by Bill Dahl

This is the sixth book I have read by Timothy Egan in the past three weeks. Up until this book, I was unable to identify a favorite. Enter –  The Immortal Irishman – now my favorite work of Mr. Egan.

The Immortal Irishman

From the days of Irish potato famine, to incarceration on the other side of the Earth in Tasmania, his daring escape from the island prison and relocation to New York City, to leading the Irish Brigade in the Civil War, his appointment as Governor of the Montana Territory, and the circumstances of his suspicious demise – this volume is a panoramic portrayal of the courageous Irish journey – and a man who led them throughout every twist and turn of his amazing life. Egan’s  mastery is on full display in this work. It is simply spellbinding.

This dramatic story simply begs to be replicated on cinema – perhaps – a mini-series vs. a two hour long film – the latter simply would not do justice with the life journey of Thomas Francis Meagher and/or the history of the Irish. I am thinking a multiple season mini-series akin to the recent “Hell on Wheels” production (2011-2016 – AMC) that chronicled the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the U.S.

Luscious history – PERIOD. Spectacular storytelling. Unequivocally unique. Honestly, words fail to express my deep appreciation for this epic contribution to history. The book also provides insights into the enduring attitudes that inhabit the current dialog regarding immigration in the U.S. – and how those attitudes have roots in the distant past of the American story.

If there was a literary rating of six stars (out of five) The Immortal Irishman – The Irish Revolutionary Who Became An American Hero by Timothy Egan is a worthy and distinguished winner.

Buy this book!!! Immerse yourself in this story. Learn. Grow. Enjoy! I most certainly did.

This volume now enjoys a prominent place in my home library – as ALL Egan’s works do.

SIX STARS – PERIOD!!!


 

A Book Review of Timothy Egan’s – Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis

It’s terribly difficult after finishing the 6th in a series of Timothy Egan’s books to declare a favorite. Yet,   Egan’s  Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis – is -well – it broke my heart.

The life and times of “fanatical” (self described) artists like Edward Curtis are rarely full of fulfilling, float you on air happiness.  Yet, his life had many interactions and endorsements by the day’s rich and famous (Teddy Roosevelt and J. Pierpont Morgan to name two).

A man who attempted to capture the remnants of an ever encroaching genocide of the remaining inhabitants of the western tribes of Native Americans is a noble story. And noble is the way Egan tells it. Yet, it leaves you (the trajectory of Curtis’s life) unfulfilled…as the life stories of so many artists do.

How Egan finds these tales and has the uncanny ability to weave story in and around the real-life characters he portrays – is – well – a mysterious literary talent that I’m unsure if even he could describe it adequately. The book, story, prose, research and Egan’s writing just make you salivate for the next page.

This is an unequivocal FIVE STAR work (which I don’t attribute to most literature I read). It is a treasure – just as the life of Edward Curtis and his enduring work was/is. I am really glad I read this book. You will be too.

I am now on to my 7th Egan book in the past three weeks (which I NEVER do); The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became An American Hero (2016).

You simply CANNOT understand the American West without Reading Timothy Egan…PERIOD.

ENJOY!!!


 

Cattle Kingdom – The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton – A Review by Bill Dahl

I have read extensively about the history of the American West. It’s a book like Cattle Kingdom that excites me about the fact that the myths that oftentimes inhabit our historical understanding  – can and will be displaced – and rewritten – when exquisitely talented authors like Christopher Knowlton take the reins.

Cattle Kingdom

The depth and breadth of the research that this work contains supports the authors thesis – confirming that history is subject to unearthing new and yet unrevealed discoveries – that can provide the sinew for a new understanding. Knowlton unequivocally demonstrates this unique  journalistic talent. Knowlton’s prose and storytelling ability are hypnotic and mesmerizing.

This is distinctly not a story that requires a preference for tales about the American West. The manner in which Knowlton weaves his story – and brings life to the characters and context – will draw readers who simply desire a really, really good book.

I must admit I had some reluctance deciding whether or not to purchase this volume. I overcame that and am really glad I did.

Many aspects of this book will bring tears to your eyes, ripping your heart apart. You’ll get angry and disgusted. The drama that Knowlton brings to life is addictive…it’s a page turning pleasure. The decimation of the Bison herds had me smelling the carnage that Knowlton described.

For those with an affinity for garnering a better understanding of the American cowboy, the influences in the development of the American West, the cattle industry, the origins of the nature of land ownership in the Western U.S. psyche, the influence of capital in the development of the American West, the beef industry, conservation, wildlife management – and – again – those who desire to be immersed in a truly fascinating true tale – well – this book is for you.

I honestly can’t imagine anyone selecting this book to devour and not coming away completely satisfied about their decision.

Frankly, I urge you to select Christopher Knowlton as your guide to the hidden history of the cowboy West. You’ll be delighted you did. Trust me…believe me…A PHENOMENAL BOOK!!!

YEEHAW!!!

Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars by Daniel P. Bolger

Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – By Daniel P. Bolger

 

The 21st Century U.S. Military Post-Mortem

 


 

 

 

Daniel Bolger is a 35 year veteran in the U.S. Army. He retired in 2013 as a Lt. General. During his career he was awarded five Bronze Stars.

 

As a U.S. citizen, this book should be required reading for the lay person with no military experience. Why?

 

Bolger provides unparalleled access into the lives of U.S. military men and women who were engaged in these wars – and provides uniquely, frank and descriptive accounts of the conditions and challenges they encountered. Bolger’s insightful accounts provide the reader with an appreciation of their service, sacrifice, courage and bravery that one simply cannot garner from the mainstream media coverage of the same. You walk away from this book with a deep and renewed sense of appreciation for the bravery and courageous contributions of our men and women who were/are involved in these conflicts.

 

This book is written in a brutally honest fashion. It is definitely not a muckraking attack on the U.S. military – nor is it a one-sided justification treatise for all things military written by a insider zealot. It is a fair and balanced treatment of every dimension of these conflicts from a participant’s perspective…Bolger’s voice is refreshingly fair, providing uncanny, forthright commentary surrounding the genesis of these wars, the conduct of the wars, and U.S. attempts to extract ourselves from the aftermath of this mayhem.

 

Finally, Bolger’s insights into “now what” regarding the lessons learned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq provide fertile ground for the essential dialog that must take place regarding the role of the U.S. military in the 21st century.

 

Who is the enemy? This is a central theme throughout the book, and remains the question today embedded in the threats to geo-political stability that continue to inhabit our globe. There are some quotes Why We Lost that should serve to provide the basis for a dialog far too many in the U.S. choose to avoid. Here are a few:

 

“The war cost the U.S. a lot of money, almost a trillion dollars since September of 2001, about two-thirds for Iraq, the rest for Afghanistan. Just how much permanent damage this did to our country’s economy is hard to determine. War funding certainly elevated the Federal government’s already burgeoning annual deficits and added a few more unwelcome strata to the accreting mountain of long-term debt. Both political parties pointed accusing fingers even as the spending continued. By any measure, fighting a protracted war on the opposite side of the world with a volunteer military and a lot of expensive contractors is no cheap” (p.419).

 

“We did not understand our enemies. Indeed, drawn into nasty local feuds, we took on too many diverse foes, sometimes confusing opponents with supporters and vice versa. Then we compounded that ignorance by using our conventionally trained military to comb through hostile villages looking for insurgents” (pp.429-430).

 

“The record to date shows that no senior officers argued for withdrawal. Instead, like Lee at Gettysburg, overly impressed by U.S. military capabilities and our superb volunteers, commander after commander, generals up and down the chain, kept right on going. We trusted our invincible men and women to figure it out and rebuild two shattered Muslim countries and do so under fire from enraged locals” (p. 430).

 

“Stay the course. Add forces. Pull out. Over time, in both countries, all three approaches were tried. Only the third one, pulling out, worked, and that in the finite sense that it ended U.S. involvement. But it left both friends and foes behind, sowing the seeds for future troubles” (p. 431).

 

As Dwight Eisenhower warned decades ago, the military-industrial complex is – well – a business. Like any organization, it knows what it knows and does what it does – learning along the way.

 

However, after reading Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, I came away with an appreciation for another reality of organizational behavior; inertia.

 

Inertia is an energy that propels an organism/object/organization ahead, knowing what it knows, doing what it knows how to do. The problem with the energy of inertia is that it possesses an intrinsic characteristic; motion. Once you combine energy and motion and a huge organization begins lumbering downhill into vast and remote terrain – it is terribly difficult to pause, take account of oneself, change direction and rethink what we thought we knew. It is difficult for organisms and organizations to unlearn, reconstitute themselves and become more fit for the challenges that will undoubtedly unfold in the future.

 

In my mind, the dialog about the role of the U.S. military in the 21st Century is the unequivocal contribution of Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

 

This is a superb contribution for anyone desiring to become more informed about the role and future of the U.S. military…a discussion that we should not avoid or postpone.

 

BUY THIS BOOK!!! I deeply appreciated General Bolger’s masterpiece. I’m confident you will too.

WHY-WE-LOST

 


 

 

 

 

A Wolf Called Romeo – by Nick Jans

THE BEST man-wild animal book I have EVER read. PERIOD.

 

Romeo
Romeo

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ordered this book as a member of the Amazon Vine program. This story is a treasure. It’s a gift…a unique and wonderful journey.

My favorite, all-time man-dog book is Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Free-thinking Dog by Ted Kerasote.

Enter Nick Jans with his book entitled A Wolf Called Romeo. This is unequivocally THE BEST man-wild animal book I have EVER read. PERIOD.

A Wolf Called Romeo
A Wolf Called Romeo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jans uses his life experience as an author, naturalist, experienced outdoorsman, investigative journalist and photographer to weave a wonderful story.

The essence of the book (for me) is characterized in the following excerpt:

“Running a Darwinian gauntlet that demanded constant adaptation and complex responses, with scant margin for error, he had accomplished what few large predators ever had, or will: he lived near, even among, thousands of humans over most of his life – not just a shadowed presence or camp follower,, but as an independent, socially interactive creature whose territory overlapped our own – without the benefit of a large-scale preserve. Through this time among us, he remained his own gatekeeper, his comings and goings defining the ever-shifting boundary between worlds, rendering our own surveys and markers meaningless.” (excerpt from page 185 – my uncorrected proof).

Like I’ve said – THE BEST man-wild animal book I have EVER read. PERIOD. Like I said – THE BEST man-wild animal book I have EVER read. PERIOD. This book should be required reading for wildllfe biology students and practitioners everywhere!!! When it comes to understanding the wolf ( I hike in northeastern Oregon –  Eagle Cap Wilderness – where wolves are now becoming re-established ) hikers, civilians, researchers, ranchers, naturalists and environmentalists would ALL be well-served by consuming this work. BUY IT! READ IT! LEARN FROM IT! – as we have vastly more to learn about this creature – and its interaction with man (and man’s interaction with the wolf).

Buy it! Savor it. Look for Nick Jans and go meet him at an author appearance. You’ll be blessed by this true story. I certainly was. I promise. PERIOD.